Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Jack Chambers TD has expressed his alarm at the latest information he has received in relation to the strength of the country’s Defence Forces. The data reveals that the numbers serving in the permanent Defence Forces has now dropped below 9,000.

Deputy Chambers commented, “At the end of September permanent Defence Forces numbers dropped to 8,989 – this compares to 9,219 a year ago. In recent years the numbers serving has threatened to fall below 9,000 threshold and now it has.

“Under Fine Gael, the Defence Forces is continuing to move further away from its approved establishment strength of 9,500 – a target that it has never even come close to achieving over the last five years.

“The latest figures come despite some 331 recruits being inducted so far this year. It is clear and incontrovertible evidence of the retention crisis that the Defence Forces faces every day of every week.

“Earlier this year HR within the Defence Forces conducted a survey of 167 personnel who paid to leave the Defence Forces early. The findings revealed that the vast majority departed for better pay and conditions elsewhere.

“Morale within the Forces is extremely low, and has not been helped by the decision by the Defence Minister not to make a recommendation to the Public Sector Pay Commission to increase pay levels.  This is a source of deep frustration and anger, particularly when the Minister previously submitted recommendations on behalf of Air Corps pilots.  As it stands, it will be next year before any pay increase will be afforded to Defence Forces personnel.  This is deeply unfair.

“Perhaps the breaching of the 9,000 threshold will end the government’s denial on the issue and act as a catalyst for action to end this retention crisis”.